If you’re a runner but aren’t a fan of running on roads, tracks, or treadmills, trail running could be for you. Colorado’s great outdoors has tons of running trails and the view is always fantastic.
Here are some of the top trail running spots on the Western Slope. You’ll want to lace up your shoes and hit the trails immediately!
This 11-miler on Colorado’s Grand Mesa near Grand Junction isn’t for the faint of heart. The strenuous trail starts at an elevation of 10,262 feet above sea level and takes you to 11,216 feet. It’s steep and high, and the views are fantastic -- wildflower-filled meadows, alpine lakes and distant snow-capped mountains. The astounding scenery should be no surprise – you’re running along the spine of the world’s largest flat-topped mountain. Crag Crest is used by hikers and overnight campers, but if you’re in shape and ready to run, you can certainly tackle it in a few sweaty hours.
For a more moderate trail run, try the 3.9-mile Serpent’s Trail in the Colorado National Monument. The elevation gain here is a bit easier to handle, going from 5,050 to 5,840 feet.
The elevation gain and rocky terrain are enough to keep you on your toes without making you regret your decision to give trail running a try. If you like a bit of history with your exercise, you’ll love this trail. It follows the original road built through the park, before the current Rim Rock Drive, and it was nicknamed the “Crookedest Road in the World.”
If you’d like to run with views of rugged, lofty mountain peaks and love the atmosphere of an organized fun run, try this annual 10-miler, scheduled this year for June 24. This well-maintained gravel loop has jaw-dropping views of the majestic Sneffels and Cimarron ranges.
The elevation gain is 525 feet, so it’s not a lung burner for many Colorado runners. To learn more about the race and to check out the route if you’d like to run it on your own some day, check out Kate Runs Colorado’s writeup.
Another Colorado National Monument trail worth mentioning is the Monument Canyon Trail. The 5.7-mile trail runs along a steep cliff wall and gives you give you long-range views into of Monument Canyon. The terrain is a combo of rock, well-packed trail, and technical bits where you may want to walk. Keep your eyes open for lizards, jackrabbits, deer and desert bighorn sheep. It’s an intermediate trail with a low-end elevation of 4,723 feet and a high point of 6,129 feet. You can make it a loop by taking the turnoff into Wedding Canyon.
There’s something magical about the small, mountain-shielded town of Ouray. The 4.2 mile Perimeter Trail takes you through alpine forest, past waterfalls, and around the canyon for stunning views of the town below and the peaks above. It’s a moderate elevation gain of 800 feet, but be aware you’re starting in a mountain town that sits 7,700 feet above sea level.
Be sure to bring a camera with you on this one! You may intend to run the whole thing without stopping, but taking a few moments to appreciate the view is highly recommended.